In name of the 99 percent, the Occupy Wall Street movement has spread like wildfire since its inception, burning its message through hundreds of communities in the United States.
Ashland is no exception. Occupy Ashland has grown exponentially since it began four months ago, increasing its presence in the community and attracting the attention of nationally recognized individuals in the larger Occupy movement.
Riki Ott, a well-known community activist, author, and public speaker, will be hosting workshops on Feb. 11, from 9 a.m. to 11:30am, and 1:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., and Feb. 12, from 10:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Bellevue Grange in Ashland, addressing skill building in democracy training action plans, community organization, and campaigning for local interests.
According to Evan Lasley, a member of the movement’s action committee, Occupy Ashland has attracted other well-known individuals seeking to support the progressive activism the community is known for.
Joyce Segers, Oregon’s democratic candidate for Congress, is one example. She is very involved in the Occupy movement in Ashland, and was the one who initially reached out to Ott.
“The organization is not built around campaign, but shared values”, said Lasley, 20, and “someone like Joyce can participate as a concerned citizen, not as a candidate.”
Occupy Ashland speaks to many groups because it addresses local issues besides just monetary inequality, according to Lasley. He said this advantage is because Ashland is small in comparison to larger cities such as Portland.
“We have a different way of doing things,” he stated. “There’s something powerful, I think, about the idea that small cities can be involved. We don’t simply need to jump onto larger agendas, we have a lot of our own goals set up that we can address.”
According to Lasley, Occupy Ashland is working with other organizations such as Good Grief America; a non-profit organization that addresses the economic and personal hardships associated with foreclosure, and is currently campaigning against homelessness with the “Legalize Sleep Campaign.”
“Small towns in general tend to be focused on local issues as opposed to major national-global issues,” said Emery Way, 24, an Occupy organizer. “The focus on particular actions versus raising awareness allows us to be more organized.”
Way was inspired to get involved in local issues long before the Occupy movement was born. He created Phronesis, a student-led community activist organization.
“We were already involved in community politics,” he said.
Way became involved in Occupy Ashland in September, where a community gathering regarding Occupy DC inspired him to take his campaigning interests to a more public level, and has been actively engaged since.
According to Lasley, the movement has encouraged about 5.6 million people to move their money from big banks to community banking systems and credit unions in the last 6 months, more than all transfers in 2010.
With workshops like those hosted by Ott, Occupy members are encouraging community members and students to step outside the box and lend their energy to a cause they can identify with.
“We need students to participate as much as they can,” said Way. “This is our movement.”
For more information on how to get involved, visit the Occupy Ashland website: www.occupyashlandoregon.org